My blog typically has three different kinds of posts
1) Rants about religion
2) Rants about people who rant about religion
3) Really angry rants about science
Today, I will talk about none of those things.
‘But, Mel!’ you may ask. ‘WHAT ELSE COULD YOU POSSIBLY HAVE TO SAY!’
Fuck you guys. I’m multidimensional.
I’ve got an incredible number of big changes happening in my life right now. For one, I’m currently writing my thesis, which I really should be working on right now instead of writing a silly blog post. I keep my data up in the background so I feel like I’m working.
Anyway. With the many big changes, I’ve come to some realizations about this thing called ‘life’, how I was living it, and how I feel I SHOULD be living it instead.
Revelation #1: There is no “formula” for life
I’ve spent a great deal of my 28 years trying to fit myself into this pre-planned ‘life structure’ that I always assumed I wanted. Go to school. Get married. Get a house. Have kids. Work, work, work. Do taxes. Die. Plus a few other things, surely. But that was the basic life plan that I expected out of myself and that I assumed everyone expected of me. I got a fair way through that plan before I stopped and realized something- It’s not for everyone. Nor should it be expected that everyone will fit into this idea of what a ‘good’ life contains. Maybe you’d rather be single, travel the world, and have some experiences rather than do nothing but watch your bank account grow from your 3 bedroom house in suburbia.
The other part of this revelation is that I don’t think many people are aware of it. Everyone seems to want some variation of this plan. Everyone who HAS some variation of this plan seems to think it’s the only way to live. But I’m learning that it isn’t. It’s not for everyone. It’s not for me. I crave adventure. Fun. Excitement. I want to take risks, try new things, go weird places and have some amazing experiences to look back on. This is the only way I can see making it to the end of my life with no regrets.
Conversely, of course, this life isn’t for everyone, either. A lot of people are probably very happy with 2.5 kids and a minivan and a perfectly manicured lawn etc etc. Kudos, friends. But I wonder how many more are living those lives because it’s what they thought they wanted, and what was expected, only to eventually wonder what else might be out there. Well, I intend to find out and, don’t worry- I’ll report back.
Revelation #2: There are no mistakes in life.
I’m one of those people who tends to second guess every decision I’ve ever made, regardless of how big or small it may be. I’ve spent my life petrified of making the ‘wrong’ decisions. I broke up with a boyfriend in my early 20’s, and I recall my mother saying to me, “Melissa, I’m worried that you’re making decisions that are going to negatively impact your life in the long term”. Which, of course, is Mom-speak for “Why the fuck did you break up with that nice boy who wanted a family you colossal idiot?” It’s thoughts like this that have plagued me my entire life. Is this the ‘right’ decision? What if it’s the wrong one? What if I regret this? What if, what if, what if. You can drive yourself crazy playing the ‘what if’ game.
This second revelation came recently, while making a very difficult decision and spending many sleepless, tearful nights wondering ‘what if’. I’ve realized there are no mistakes in life, but only choices. You make decisions every day. Sometimes the consequences are favourable, sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they’re what you expected, and more often, they aren’t. The point is not that you’ve made a good or bad decision, but that you can take whatever the consequences are, deal with them, and move on, for better or worse. You can handle it. You may look back on life and regret things, and think, “I made the wrong choice. That was a mistake.” But really, all you need is a different perspective. For all you know, making a different choice, the ‘right’ choice in hindsight, may have led you down a path that was 10 times worse than where you are now. Don’t dwell on what could have been, or what is the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choice to make. They’re just choices. Make them, deal with the outcomes, and move on.
Revelation #3: It’s ok to be selfish.
Another good/bad character trait of mine is a desperate desire to please everyone all the time. On the one hand, this is excellent, because it tends to make people like me very much and very easily. But it’s also a bad thing, as I’m often willing to give up a lot of my own happiness to satisfy the needs of others. There needs to be a healthy balance, and I’ve come to realize that, when it comes to your own happiness, it’s ok to be selfish. Maybe ending that relationship, or leaving that job, or moving to a new city, would disappoint your partner, friends, or family. But that can’t be your only consideration. Think about yourself. Think about your happiness. Think about YOUR future.
As an atheist, I am painfully aware that life only happens this one time. You don’t get another kick at the can. So, you’d best be sure that this life you’re living, every day, right now, is what you want it to be. You’d better make sure you’re spending it as happy and fulfilled as possible. Of course, it’s very important to consider how your actions will affect others, especially if it will impact them negatively. But truly, this is your life- YOUR life- and to live it without striving to grab as much happiness as possible would seem to be a terrible waste.
So, there you have it. This is my new hippie mantra- don’t be stressed about life, but just live it, enjoy it, and take things as they come, day by day, moment by moment. If you can spend most of the time through most of your days being happy, fulfilled, excited, inspired and loved- You’re doing ok.